With the arrival of fall, we’re welcoming sweater weather with open arms. From cashmere to merino, taking care of your sweaters is a worthwhile way to make sure your favorites look just as good as the day you unwrapped them. Plus, if you’re anything like us and have a sweater foul on your record (shrunken cardigan, anyone?) it doesn’t hurt to have a few wear and care tricks up your sleeve (literally). With any sweater, start by reading the care instructions. These are written after thorough testing and are a good general reference guide for caring for your sweater.
Wear & Tear
All sweaters pill—it’s inevitable. However, there are ways to manage pilling and avoid being covered in fuzzballs.
Pilling is the balling of fibers on the surface of a garment or material. These are formed when the fibers break or emerge on the surface and are rubbed into a knot by normal wear. The amount that a sweater will pill comes down to the fiber length and whether the fiber is twisted.
As tempting as it may be, resist the urge to pull on these pills. Sweater combs and stones are great methods to remove the pills. Use these items gently, without pressure, so that the fibers below the pill do not break.
Shedding is when fibers free themselves from your sweater and stick to everything else you’re wearing or sitting on—thanks, static! On an animal hair fiber sweater, such as cashmere, it is common to have excess fibers. To remove the loose ones, put the dry sweater in an air-dry cycle with a damp towel for 10-20 minutes. Repeat if needed.
Repairing a hole or snag in a sweater is not easy, but it is possible. If your sweater snags, never cut the loose threads. One loose string is connected to the entire sweater and cutting it will cause the sweater to unravel.
The ideal way is to pick up each loose stitch surrounding a hole and to blind-stitch or knit these back together. This is a service offered by some tailors.
Thread through each stitch and knot to inside of the garment. Do not use nail polish or glue, as you would for a run in a tight.
How (And When) To Wash
Let’s start by saying this: sweaters should be laundered on an “as needed” basis. Strange as that may sound; it’s actually better for your sweater (and the environment!).
In the case of odor, fibers like wool are self-cleaning. Before washing, leave your sweater out overnight to air out. Merino and wool sweaters will naturally deodorize.
Pasta sauce stain?
Smaller stains should be spot treated immediately. Best treatment methods will vary depending on what you spilled—a quick search will provide substance-specific advice. Generally, be sure to dab (not rub) and if you are in a pinch, use room temperature water or seltzer.
If you’ve left your sweater to air out overnight, spot treated any stains and still feel it needs a washing in the morning—here are a few general tips. We’ll start with this rule of thumb: When in doubt, always defer to sweater tag care. Regardless of yarn, there is no “one-size-fits-all” method.
Hand wash your sweater (inside out) in cool tap water. Use a small amount of liquid detergent—bonus point if it is detergent specially formulated for wool and cashmere. Avoid using packet or powder detergent as this can clump and cause discoloration or stains on the sweater.
While washing, don’t soak or rub the sweater—this can cause pilling. Instead, swish it, then gently rinse. You may need to rinse several times to get out all the detergent!
If the sweater is machine-washable (check tag if you’re unsure), use cold water and select the delicate cycle. Best practice, although optional, is to turn inside out and use a protective mesh washing bag. These bags protect your sweater and prevent them from damage.
Avoid wringing the excess water out. To dry it, roll in a towel and press to remove excess water, then lay flat to dry. If the sweater is machine-washable, you can put in the dryer on a gentle tumble air cycle with dryer balls to fluff the sweater and remove excess fibers. Note that a wet sweater will shrink if put in a heated dryer cycle, so make sure to select “air dry”.
Light steaming or light ironing will remove wrinkles and can reshape your sweater. However, if the sweater has any acrylic in the material (check the trusty tag!), avoid ironing and only steam.
How to Store
It’s worth noting that you should only fold your sweaters—save your hangers for something else. Hangers will cause sweaters to “grow”—slowly stretch out over time—and make dents in the shoulders due to the delicate nature of knit material. Our sweater connoisseur, Kristin, adds: “I have pets, so I’m in the habit of storing all my clothes inside out! I’d be fired if I ever hung a sweater (ha, ha!) so mine are turned inside out, folded and put on a shelf.”
For long-term storage: pack clean, dry sweaters. Storing a damp sweater will cause mildew. After cleaning, put in a breathable bag or box. Do not vacuum seal or enclose in tightly sealed plastic—this will trap moisture.
Now that you know how to care for them, stock up on our newest sweaters (for her and for him) so you can put your care skills to the test. Then, show us how you’re wearing them: tag @bananarepublic and #ItsBanana (for the guys, #BRMens) on Instagram. Warm wishes!